I hope you are doing well. I've been meaning to write you for a while, if nothing else but to check up on you. You have been in my thoughts and prayers and I haven't forgotten how kind you have always been to me in my letters. This next one has some positive vibes for a change! My parents have started to relent and are even going to anthrocon 2016 with me and three other friends whom I've swayed. The rest of this email is a little serious however, but there's no problem this time I promise.
I love the fandom, but could it get in the way of a potential career in the future? This coming fall I will be attending Iowa State University to pursue a degree in education. I am a bit antsy about college but definitely am ready for something new. With my future plans, there come some necessary questions. Since educators are one of the most trusted disciplines in the world aside from nursing, teachers are expected to possess that air of professionalism and have the record to prove it. Teachers are role models of the school district and the communities they work and live in. With all the scrutiny that will come from both my peers and the people around me, if the question somehow arises of me being one of those "furry people", could this be potentially problematic for me? I think this is a question that takes some consideration, given my chosen line of work. I believe myself perfectly capable of handling people with standard questioning of the fandom. You know, the kind we've all heard before. Heck if I were to mention being a furry right now at school, everybody would immediately send fifty text messages to everybody else and I'd get yiff thrust into my face with incredulous exclamations of "you're into this???" before I had even finished explaining what a furry was. To be clear, I don't plan to be openly furry. That business has no bearing in my work and doesn't belong there at all. If I have my way, nobody will even know. I don't intend to hide it, I just plan to be strictly business and being furry is part of my personal life that does not and should not influence my job. The potential problem I see however, is faculty or a parent googling me and raising some drama with what they find. We can assume anything they find is clean. There is no explicit content in my name or of my character and there never will be any that is of my knowledge. Because of this I do not fear serious repercussions, trying to terminate me on claims of my simple interests-especially one that is harmless and kept professional-causing loss of public trust could be borderline discriminatory and the school likely wouldn't use that against me. But all it takes is some gossiping for my name to get purposefully dragged through the dirt. Part of it could be people thinking they are more buddy buddy with me than they actually are. Part of it could be being rude for the sake of being rude because they don't get it. What do you think? Will I just have to watch myself, or should I consider looking at other options?
Thank you again for being yourself. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please hit me up and I would jump at the chance to give back and pay your kindness forward.
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I’m glad that things are improving with your parents—good news! Thanks for sharing.
Okay, on to teaching…. Teaching is one of the noblest professions, and I think it’s wonderful that you wish to help others learn. I’m going to have to say some things that you might not like, however. It’s really not so much about being a furry as it is the state of our current educational system.
I have known several teachers in my life. All but one of them got so frustrated with the job that they quit or retired early. One was even a teacher-turned-principal. He was fired from a Catholic school when they found out he was gay (private school, so they can do that). Another teacher was white in an all-Hispanic school. In an interesting case of reverse discrimination, the administrator there made his life so absolutely miserable that he retired early for the sake of his sanity. A third teacher quit because he got so tired of parents running to the principal because he had given Little Johnny or Mary a bad grade, and then the teacher backing up the parent instead of him. He was a young teacher and quit the profession in two years. American teachers live in a system where the students are passed from grade to grade even though they fail the course, where they are forced to stick religiously to a teaching plan and actually berated by administrators if they, God forbid, teach something that is not explicitly allowed. The self-esteem of students takes precedence over actual learning. Learning methods are absurd to the point of being counterproductive (especially true in current math-teaching methods). Add to this restricted or diminished budgets that are so bad many teachers (except in rich districts) end up buying their students’ supplies, and the fact that some teachers have even been attacked or poisoned (in one case I know of personally, even murdered) by their own students, and you can kind of see why some teachers freak out and are caught on camera letting loose on a student (not forgivable, but understandable).
I want you to be aware of some of these things before you decide to go into teaching, because from what I’ve learned from those in the field, it is a thankless profession, at least in public schools. This might be different in private schools. I don’t know, although the case of my friend who worked at a Catholic school shows that it’s not a good situation there, either. Now, if you want to teach at the university level, that can be a bit more calm; however, my sister is a successful professor here in California and it is very frustrating for her, too. More and more, professors are taking on administrative tasks to the point that she and her colleagues joke that “teaching is something we do in our spare time.” She loves to teach, but, sadly, has little opportunity to do so. Add to this the bureaucracy (she was once in charge of a committee that spent two years compiling a report only to have the university president decide, when it was done, “Naah, I decided not to do that”; two years completed wasted) and she has also told me she would love to retire early.
I would not be a teacher if you offered to pay me double what I make now. It would not be worth my sanity.
But that’s just me. If you don’t care about any of the above because you have a burning passion in your heart to teach, then go for it, and God bless.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve gotten your degree and you’re now a teacher at PS 39 in Brooklyn, working at a lovely historic building. Super duper. I would keep my personal furry life completely separate from my professional life, if I were you. Do not associate your real name and real life in any way with furry, and you might get by. When you are a teacher, or cub scout master, or baseball coach, or any such job where you work with kids you are subjected to a standard different from that of the ordinary working world. My friend Tycho Aussie works in an office surrounded by adults and they accept his furry work and even enjoy it, no worries. But when you’re associated with the fandom and are around little kids, you will be subjected to incredible ignorance, fear, and suspicion from administrators, colleagues, and parents living in a hypersensitive world in which everyone believes that a pedophile lurks around every drinking fountain and teachers’ lounge. They won’t care if you keep your nose clean, because it will be guilt by association. To use an over-the-top example, it would be like someone who is in the KKK saying, “Well, I never burned any crosses.” Doesn’t matter, you’re in the KKK, and as far as many are concerned the fandom is a haven for pedophiles, perverts, and pagans (oh, my!) True? Of course not, but you’ll have a bear of a time convincing people otherwise once word is out, and once you are outed you can never go back.
I’m sorry, this is not a very upbeat reply, but I want you to be prepared for the worst. If you are, anything better will be happy news. This is also not to say that things can’t change. I’m hopeful my book will help clear things up, and I also know that there are others doing similar work, both in book and movie versions. As well, the fandom is growing by leaps and bounds all around the world, and I think that, as it does so, it will seem less and less like a clandestine, deviant society and more like something that is mainstream and out in the open, like comic book fans (this is why I strongly agree with those who say we should not ever talk to the media). The articles I’ve been reading of late that are published by mainstream presses are much more understanding and honest than they were in the 1990s and 2000s. And movies like Zootopia help, too, actually. It might be that, by the time you finish college, things could be very different from what they are now.
I can’t tell you what you should do with your life, nor would I want to, but it’s best to go into something with your eyes wide open and cleared of all naïve and idealistic notions of what you think it’s all about. If you can do that and forge ahead anyway because you love the idea of teaching a new generation about the world, then I am your sincere fan.
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